A Strange Day?
When the Madrid draw was released, I think everyone thought that Rafa had a pretty easy draw; his only obstacle for impressing his home crowd was Novak and although Novak is always a threat to any winning ambition, as soon as he was ousted by the tie-break kid Karlovic, it was probably a universal feeling that Rafa would go on to the finals and perhaps even face-off against Roger – not to be!!! For once since
A Different Simon:
Rafa had everything when you think about it – he had the momentum, he was still pulling of his miraculous passing shots, he had the home field advantage and he had all the confidence in the world so what happened? Well Simon played the match of his life and I think more importantly he enjoyed himself. If you look at Simon’s regular matches, they’re very routine – it’s like his play is pre-programmed and he’s just pressing the buttons – he rarely smiles or seems overly excited, and he just goes on about his business with a kind of mild partiality. Last night was a different affair; he threw his regular play out the window and decided to play with some spontaneity – he truly embraced that idea of “there’s nothing to loose”. His shots down the line were mesmerizing not only because they surprised the ever active Nadal but because of their frequency – there’s no doubt that the question on everyone’s match during that 3rd set was “for how long can he keep this up”? Simon however was impressive for more reasons than this – his ability to get the ball into play and actually draw the error from Rafa was unbelievable – to do that to Rafa?????? One would think that was impossible!! But it didn’t stop there, Simon exhibited great touch at the net – I’ll never forget that point where Rafa had the net closed off and Simon hit a gentle passing shot that passed the narrowest of gateways and landed in the right hand corner of the Rafa court – Rafa just turned around in disbelief and I thought to myself where have I seen that face before – ahh yes, on the face of nearly every one of his opponents!! The fact is Simon had fun, the experience exhilarated him and lets just hope he brings the same bubbly intensity to all his matches in the future.
A Strange Day for Rafa:
It must be said though that despite the brilliance of Simon, Rafa played better tennis- Rafa put greater pressure on Simon during all his service games and did some miraculous things himself – its just that he’s now feeling what Roger must feel, the shots are expected of him. Rafa didn’t win the game because he didn’t do what he does best – play the big points well. He failed to convert 22 break points and he did have his chances – it’s not as if Simon played every one of Rafa break point opportunities brilliantly. Secondly Rafa’s serve was not good enough – Simon got them back in with too much depth and from there, Rafa’s heavy hitting was not good enough. Thirdly and I hate to say this but Rafa just seemed to get a little frustrated in the second half of the 3rd set – like I said, it was a very strange day indeed. In the end it was Simons day, he played the best tennis of his life and now every one of his opponents will play him with just a bit of fear and apprehension in their minds – he’s no longer Simon the counter-puncher, but Simon “the guy that beat Nadal and Federer in the same year” – if that doesn’t strike a bit a fear into your opponent, I don’t know what will.